Huge Wyoming wind farm may slash energy bills in California | RenewEconomy

Huge Wyoming wind farm may slash energy bills in California

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A huge wind farm in Wyoming could provide up to 3GW to the Californian state, helping slash energy bills and meet the 2020 target.

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Climate Progress

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CREDIT: AP/MATT YOUNG

California law says that a third of the state’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2020. A proposed 500-square-mile, $8 billion wind farm developed by Anschutz Corp. in Wyoming could provide up to 3,000 megawatts of this power, or about three nuclear reactors’ worth.

A preliminary National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report from late January found that wind power from the Cowboy state could save ratepayers in the Golden state a lot of gold — up to $750 million annually.

Greg Brinkman, an energy analysis engineer at NREL told the Casper Star-Tribune that the findings of their study are consistent with previous studies. Their research found that Wyoming wind projects have a cost-benefit ratio of 2.8 to 1 when compared to California solar, wind and geothermal. Wyoming wind is very strong and reliable, and the cost-effectiveness benefits from large economies of scale.

“When utilities planners see numbers of two or higher, this is relatively unusual, and indicates very positive economics, very positive incentives to make this investment,” hesaid.

Anschutz’s wind farm would connect to California via a 750-mile transmission line traveling down toward the Hoover Dam. The line itself would cost $3 billion, and with construction likely starting next year it is expected to begin operating in 2017. The distance between energy production and consumption is not the only gulf in the proposed project. While more renewable energy is California’s ultimate goal, some see the wind farm as a cop out that allows a coal-reliant state to keep churning out dirty energy for itself while it profits from local economic benefits that could be of value to Californians.

“If we are taking renewable power from Wyoming, while they burn coal, then you aren’t accomplishing very much,” Severin Borenstein, a UC Berkeley expert on the California electricity market, told the Los Angeles Times.

While many Californians may prefer to buy locally generated, smaller-scale renewable power that supports in-state jobs and avoids constructing high-impact transmissions lines, electricity cost jumps of up to 27 percent over the next 15 years are also a major concern. Integrating faraway renewable sources into the state’s grid may be the most effective compromise to achieve renewable goals.

The cost discrepancy between wind power and coal power is shrinking, even when it’s generated in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. In December, Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley’s Head of North American Equity Research for Power & Utilities and Clean Energy, said that wind farms in the Midwest are signing power agreements at costs as low as $25 per megawatt-hour.

“In the Midwest, those wind plants are, many times of the day, competing against efficient nuclear plants and efficient Powder River Basin coal plants,” Byrd said. “Powder River Basin coal plants have a variable cost of between $20 and $25 per megawatt-hour, so in the Midwest, it’s fairly vicious competition between very efficient wind farms — which are always called on first because they have no variable cost — and coal and nuclear.”

Source: Climate Progress. Reproduced with permission.

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3 Comments
  1. your local fire fighter 7 years ago

    Amazing read – and what are we doing here in ToastAuS – our Parliament debating the destruction of real Climate mitigation reforms (Climate Commission, CEFC Carbon Tax to name but a few), by none other than the COALtion.

    Pathetic.

    I did not vote for them; so don’t blame me.

  2. Ronald Brakels 7 years ago

    It interesting that we are currently putting up wind turbines at a considerably lower cost per kilowatt of capacity than this US project here in Australia, so I guess we are doing something right with regards to windpower. However, the US does have the advantage of cheaper financing which is very useful for getting high capital cost, low operating cost generating capacity built.

  3. Onefinity 7 years ago

    The product would be much better if they incorporate pumped storage
    hydro on the Wyoming end and on the receiving end (Gridflex Energy has
    projects proposed on both ends). On the sending end, pumped storage can
    shift peak wind output (which doesn’t coincide with California’s summer
    load) to lower wind periods, thus allowing the expensive DC lines to be
    used much more efficiently. On the receiving end, pumped storage can
    help shape and firm the on-peak wind using off-peak wind. And the ratios
    of pumped storage to wind needed to achieve this are quite good; the
    pumped storage easily pays for itself. Without this strategy, it’s an
    expensive proposition and you get the variable & intermittent
    product with wind-only value.

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